Scottish & Newcastle is thought to be a step closer to finding a successor to Sir Brian Stewart, its executive chairman.
Mr Stewart is due to retire this year and the vacant role represents one of the biggest jobs in the pub and brewing business.
S&N, Britain's biggest brewer, has been searching for a new chief for the past 12 months.
The maker of Fosters and Kronenbourg 1664 has whittled possible candidates down to a short list.
Three men seem to be in the frame: Ian McHoul, the finance director; John Nicolson, chairman of the international brewing arm; and John Dunsmore, the managing director of Scottish Courage.
David Hazelwood, Heineken's chief financial officer, is also a worthy candidate but the Dutch brewer would be loathed to see him jump ship to a rival.
Another possible replacement for Mr Stewart, John Brock, the former operations chief of Cadbury Schweppes, was recently snapped up by Belgian competitor Interbrew.
S&N is looking for a leader to shadow and then succeed Sir Brian, who intends to step down to a non-executive position once the right man is found.
Although Bob Ivell, chairman of S&N Retail, is seen as a contender, the increasing focus on global brewing would make him an unlikely choice. S&N is in the process of selling the freeholds of 700 houses, throwing a question mark over its long-term commitment to running pubs.
S&N has not ruled out going outside the industry to fond the right replacement.